Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Legislature passes two-year operating budget
I voted 'no' on the 2013 operating budget because it balances on the backs of local government. If it did not wipe out the Public Works Assistant Account, erode local governments' fair share of liquor taxes, expand Medicaid to implement the Affordable Care Act, or rely on $2.3 billion of federal money, it would have been a lot easier for me to vote yes.
However, there are positive aspects in this budget and I certainly appreciate the fact that for the first time in more than a decade, many conservative principles were included in the final package. This is likely due to the Majority Coalition Caucus having an important seat at the budget negotiating table. I am also pleased this budget continues to protect the state's most vulnerable populations, and with the exception of two mandated court actions, this budget does not raise taxes.
Overall, this budget is a win for Washington taxpayers. I support the fact that it adds $1 billion to K-12 public education, it invests an additional $36 million in college grants for low-income students and holds the line on college tuition rates for the first time in 27 years. The $33.5 billion budget passed by a large majority of legislators in both chambers and will be signed into law. It averts a government shutdown on July 1, 2013.
Even though enough House members voted to pass a $10 billion gas tax package presented by the Democrat majority on June 27, I believe the gas tax proposal may be stalled. This means the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is likely finished. The basis of this gas tax plan is to bond projected gas tax revenues in order to leverage enough money to build $10 billion worth of new mega-projects around the state. It's the same as the Legislature using a state credit card, maxing it out to build new projects and then gambling on the fact that enough gas tax revenue will come in from the pockets of Washington drivers over the next 25 years in order to pay off the debt. It's all based on assumptions.
Our Washington Constitution mandates that any bond bill must pass with a 60% majority vote from both chambers. This means the house needs 59 votes in order to pass the bond bill that will pay for the projects. There are 55 Democrats and 42 Republicans in the House. I do not believe there are enough votes from either side to get to the magic number of 59.
The hallmark of the transportation tax plan is a new 10.5 cent gas tax. The House majority party also put an emergency clause on this bill so the first 6 cent gas tax increase begins this summer in August followed by another 4.5 cent gas tax next year. Washington State already has the 7th highest gas tax in the country. If this was such an emergency, why didn't it come up for a vote in this year's regular session? Furthermore, with an emergency clause, it takes away the voters' rights to repeal it by referendum.
If this bill passes, the CRC will be funded with $450 million in bonded revenue plus an additional $650 million in toll revenue bonds. It's important to note, toll revenue bonds are backed by tolls, not by the full faith and credit of the state and are considered much riskier than general obligation bonds.
Please look over the details below and let me know if you believe the State of Washington should raise your gas tax another 10.5 cents. If you agree with my “NO” vote, please contact every Washington State Senator and urge them to kill this bill, just in case it does come back to life.
6 Real Reasons to Oppose House Gas Tax
- Gas tax increase of 10.5 cents
- A passenger weight fee increase ranging from $15, $25 or $35
- A 15% weight fee increase for trucks over 10,000 gross vehicle weight
- An additional $5 increase in auto registration fees at your local county auditor's office
- An additional $12 increase for title transfers at your local county auditor's office
- An additional $6 increase in enhanced driver's licenses
Concern from teachers across the state
I appreciated hearing from all the teachers who contacted my office. Again, I want to thank all the great teachers in this state who work hard to make a positive impact on the lives of their students! I am grateful to them.
Some teachers may not realize what a huge supporter I have been for our local school districts. Last April, I posted many positive comments on my personal Facebook page about the importance of passing the Battle Ground school district replacement operating levy which had failed earlier in February. I also wrote a lengthy guest editorial that was published in three local newspapers including The Vancouver Columbian, The Battle Ground Reflector and the Camas Washougal Post Record. In it, I urged citizens in the Battle Ground school district to vote yes on this levy. I was relieved to see it pass.
On a regular basis, I make a point to attend school board meetings in my legislative district. Prior to getting elected, I met with superintendents and school board members from several districts.
During this entire legislative session, I have been a very vocal proponent of funding education first. I have written to constituents in my weekly email newsletters on numerous occasions, expressing my support for House Republicans' “Fund Education First” budget. All along, I have advocated to spend an additional $1 billion on K-12 public education as an important down payment on the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision in the 2013-15 operating budget.
A few months ago, I formed an Education Kitchen Cabinet (EKC). I invited teachers, principals, school board members, home school parents, skill center directors and superintendents to participate in this EKC. The purpose is to gather education professionals together to discuss ways we can all work together to improve our public education system. I am eager to listen to these folks who have graciously agreed to be part of this important education forum. I look forward to reporting on the progress of this committee.
In closing, our state has not recovered from the Great Recession. Our economy is suffering with more than 43,000 residents still out of work. Many Washington citizens are continuing to struggle just to put food on the table for their families.
I know that some teachers are struggling as well, and I sincerely wish the state were not in the dire financial situation it is. Teachers are amongst the hardest workers in our state and I believe the vast majority are dedicated professionals who genuinely care about the education of their students. I support these teachers. But the reality is that we must all understand that we are in a season of “shared sacrifice,” no matter if you're a private-or public-sector employee.
Going forward, I will continue to support education reform bills that put our children's education first. I will continue to support education budgets that truly fund education first because our state's constitution clearly dictates this is the paramount duty of the Legislature.
End of 2013 legislative session
I appreciate hearing from constituents in my district and from across the state. Thank you for taking time to read my weekly e-newsletters telling the story of this year's historic overtime session. I will continue to keep you updated on important news related to my work in Washington's House of Representatives.
Happy U.S. Independence Day!
I hope you and your family have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July as we celebrate our country's Independence Day. Senator Ann Rivers and I have been invited to speak at the 100th Anniversary of Venersborg Church at 1:00 p.m. on July 4th. The celebration takes place from 11am to 3pm, 24317 NE 209th Street, Battle Ground, WA. If you are in the area, please stop by and learn about Venersborg's rich history in Northeast Clark County.
Since Senator Ann Rivers maintains her legislative offices in Olympia all year long, I have invited her to join me at a July open house/reception at my district office in Camas on Friday, July 5th between 4 and 6pm. Please join us for light refreshments and hear about the highlights of this year's marathon legislative session and details on our state's final two-year operating budget. The office is located at 415 NE Cedar Street, Suite A, Camas, WA 98607. We'd love to visit with you.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"